Welcome everyone! We are about to begin our Live Chat with Peter Wernicke.
Please feel free to submit your questions for Peter.
Good morning, Peter. Are you ready to begin?
I'm ready whenever you are!
You spoke at last week's public forum sponsored by the Journal and the Rapid City Area Chamber of Commerce. You stated that you were opposed to changing the length of terms served by city aldermen and the mayor. Could you explain to our readers why you oppose longer terms?
I don't oppose longer term lengths per se. I just haven't heard a good reason to to so. Most people are giving their opinions without facts to back them up. I would like to see the facts first before we rush headlong into change.
One of the reasons that has been cited by proponents is that it takes time for new council members to get up to speed on learning how the council works and the process of the mayor-aldermanic form of government. Then, they have to run for re-election the following year. Is this a valid criticism of 2-year terms?
No I do not think it is. When someone runs for office, they claim to know what is to be done or that they can do the job. It is a partime job (alderman). Could it be that the real problem is how the government has been allowed to run, making the process more dificult? How would changing the term lengths change this?
Do you believe that Rapid City's government is too difficult to work with or understand?
No I do not think it is. I think that there is a tendency of elected officials to become more detached from the public because of the nature of the job. They loose a connection to the pulse of the electorate because of close association with others of like mindset.
Do you believe that running for re-election every two years forces elected officials to become more engaged with the public? Would longer terms make elected officials more likely to lose their connection with their constituents?
The people want to be heard, but because of the economy, many do not have an easy time or way to communicate. When a government looses touch with the people, it has a tendency to dictate policy that is not wanted nor properly vetted by the public. Longer terms may only produce more problems than they are worth. Again, to those that want to change, where is your proof that this change will work.
Patrick Fink has a question for you, Peter.
The only term that should be lengthened is the mayors. By changing to a 3 year term, this would eliminate the same council members coming up for re-election or running against the mayor at the same time. The mayor is the only full time position. The council is part-time. I have stated that position from my first objection to this term length proposal at the council meeting where this issue was raised.
Patrick has another question.
That is the old proving a untruth tactic. If someone is asking for change, gives reasons to, but does not back them up with fact and only assumptions, why is it that those opposed have to prove them false? I have only stated that if you wnat something changed, prove that you have all the facts. If you want me to bring up facts against this, I am doing so. Look around to the other communities such as the mess in Sturgis, the change occuring in Belle Fouche, and our own past history befor the flood. Change for the sake of change is not a good thing. WE must learn from the past.
Ron Weifenbach has a question, Peter.
Great question Ron. That is what is going on here. They are (or were) taking a giant step without looking. It is only because some people stood up and said slow down that this is not on its way to becomming a law in two weeks. There have been many other examples of the council voting to make cahnges and within minute during the council meeting having to change or alter the vote because they did not understand fully what they were voting on or its consequences.
Another question from Ron.
I think that their argument about the "Weifenbach" effect is definately one that should be looked at.
I'm afraid to ask. The "Weifenbach" effect?
That efect is that Ron willingly gave up his chance to re-run for his council seat to run for mayor. The issue of sitting council members running for another elected office and vacating an unfulfilled term
or what Ron did is part of the problem of continuity that is being discussed.
Another reason cited by proponents of longer terms is the cost of running for public office or constantly having to seek re-election. You ran for mayor in the last election. Is Rapid City politics becoming too expensive? Would extending term lengths make it less costly to run for office by spreading the election cycle?
Elections are becoming expensive not because of the number of elections we have, but because of politics. To much emphasis is being placed on advertising, glamour and glitz at the expense of open and honest debate. Longer terms do not fix that problem. The costs may actually increase because with longer term length comes more time to enact your political agenda, there is more at stake for entrenched beaurucrat
Patrick asks how you would effect a longer term of office for mayor, which you said you support.
I objected from the start that this change was being ramrodded through the council without the consent of the voters. There was little or no public discussion on the matter and needed to be slowed down. Changes like this need to be made by and with the consent of the public. All facts, not just opinions, pro and con must be put on the table and discussed before any action is taken. I suspect that the public also doesn't like be railroaded by those that wish this change which would have occured had it not be for those of use who objected to the tactics and propaganda being used by those who have an agenda in wanting this change for their own political reason.
Bubba -- I'm guessing not the pro golfer -- has a question, Peter.
Its against South Dakota law. Two years minimum.
We're almost out of time, Peter. Any last thoughts?
I would just like to encourage the council, the mayor and the voters of Rapid City to attend the townhalls on this subject and express their views, provide factual input (pro and con) on all sides of this issue so that we the citizens cam vote on this matter in June in a responsible and well informed manner. Thank you all for letting my views
be heard and I apprieciate all those that expressed their opinions in this chat.
Thanks, Peter. It has been an interesting discussion.